Melon Collie Pony

they've all fallen to the groundI think I first heard about the movie Melancholia somewhere around the time they announced that Bernie Madoff was no longer suicidal. There seemed to be a lot of depression and suicide themed stories in the news around then. I don’t think I was projecting or selectively perceiving that. My own depression and suicidalness has remained pretty constant since about April.

Anyway it wasn’t long before the movie’s director made a supposed joke about Nazis. And they released the info that Bernie Madoff had originally attempted suicide with anti-depressives. Like he couldn’t have tried something perhaps more efficacious like eating paraffin. Or roast beef.

Some movies you’ve just got to think about afterwards. Maybe talk it over with someone so you know what you actually think.

Melancholia is an art house film, I guess. I actually saw it in an art museum. Afterward we ate supper at the Pho Pause noodle emporium. I felt so metropolitan. Then we drove home to our quasi-abandoned missile silo out in the boonies.

The movie is in three parts. The first part is brief, but in slow motion. It consists of shots that should have been at normal speed in the other two parts, but that didn’t quite fit in there, or were too pretty, or contained plot points that just had to be clear from the beginning. Sort of like pre-loading your browsers web cache. (That is so 90’s & dialup!)

The second part is the bride’s meltdown at her wedding reception. You see enough of her family to understand everything.

The third part takes place a day or a few days later, when everyone discovers that a rogue planet is about to crash into the Earth. All of a sudden the bride is not among the most depressed. What a turnabout!

These two greater sections are sort of parallel. There are phrases repeated in each, by the same characters, in similar situations. It kind of makes you think. This is definitely not a Transformers movie. It’s artificial in a good way: meaning that it was made with art. It doesn’t feel synthetic or fake or implausibly stretched. Or surreal. For surreal, go with Eraserhead.

The bride and her sister’s husband are American. Her sister and parents are English. Everyone else is Swedish. Originally Penélope Cruz was supposed to play the bride instead of Kirsten Dunst. I think I might not have gone to see the movie in theaters then, because it would have felt too artsy or pretentious or something. Kirsten Dunst really grounds the movie. She needs to win an Oscar or something.

It’s a pretty movie. And there’s a really strong sense of place. But I can’t really figure out where that bridge is. They keep saying there’s an eighteen hole golf course, but one of the flags says 19. And the performances are awesome. Kiefer Sutherland plays a more realistic version of Jack Bauer. I’ve loved Charlotte Gainsbourg since The Science of Sleep.

I guess it’s kind of a cross between Rachel Getting Married and When Worlds Collide. There’s a lot of handheld camera, and the focus-puller was really having problems. It felt pretty intimate.

Is the movie saying that getting married is as depressing as the world ending? Is it saying that people should be more morose about global warming? Is it saying life goes on even when it doesn’t?

I don’t know what I think. We’ve got to talk about it….

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Maybe I’m a Special Bunny

So the other day I was accidentally listening to the top rated kids song on Sirius-XM.

It kinda reminds me of Harvey, but with Jimmy Stewart as the rabbit.

It’s called I Think I’m a Bunny. It’s a song by Todd McHatton off his new album Galactic Champions of Joy. The title character is explaining his beliefs to Todd’s daughter, I presume. He’s pretty good at it, but her responses are spot on perfect. There’s the YouTube video as well.

Mr. McHatton is a fan of Harry Nilsson, and has posted songs on the For The Love of Harry site. There is a certain over-dubby goodness to Todd’s recordings that feels kinda familiar. It was inevitable that I would someday find his music. You too. You can’t deny it.

I don’t think he has a record deal. It looks like Amazon distributes his CDs, and creates them on demand. So go demand some! Dabnabit!

But listening to the song raises some troubling questions, at least for me. Why is this little girl spending time with a delusional monster? She clearly recognizes that he’s a monster. Just how delusional is he? Is it wise for her to be so directly contradicting him? My sister-in-law says not to worry because the little girl is a monster too, but it doesn’t look that way from the video.

This is my favorite song of the year and I’m officially sharing it with you.

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Bathroom of Despair

Toothy Grin of DespairThe other day at work, I was having fun in the bathroom. Updating my cell phone apps. Reading a magazine.

It was a slick, shiny magazine about car design. To get that slick look, they mix clay in with the paper. Most slick magazines are measurably radioactive from the clay. Except for Physics journals, who don’t want to mess up their customers’ experiments.

All of sudden I realized that something terrible had happened. There was no toilet paper in my stall.

Can you imagine my shock and outrage at having my social contract revoked at such a time? The last person should have put a sign on the door warning of the stall’s immodest frugality. Instead it was every dog for themselves.

I tried using my cellphone to call a co-worker. I remembered one extension number. He sent me straight to voicemail. Then I accidentally pressed some strange and powerful combination of buttons on my phone, and it started telling me “Updating Services”. After five minutes, much past my wit’s end, I pressed the Cancel button. Five minutes later it was still “Canceling Updating Services”. I tried to turn it off. It was too busy canceling updating services. I pulled the battery out.

Five minutes later, it finished rebooting. Carefully, I dialed into work, and chose the option for the Corporate Directory. “Enter somebody’s name, and we’ll connect you.” I was trying to pick one of my two co-workers. Instead, it was offering people in other buildings. It was mentioning people that I don’t know. I couldn’t get it to acknowlege that somebody named Chris worked here! Then it started going really weird, offering to let me listen in to somebody’s voicemail if I just pressed 1 and the # sign.

I gave up on the phone.

All this time, not a soul had entered the bathroom. Maybe there’d been a nuclear war, or fire drill, or some other reason to evacuate the premises. Maybe I’d been there so long the place had closed for the night. I was getting desperate.

Slick magazine pages can serve no purpose other than to display photos and prose. But I tore one page out and crumpled it up a little bit, just to test it.

So I climbed over into the neighboring stall. It was better than crawling under the stall, through the brown bubbling ooze of doom that was standing in a puddle on the floor.

OK, so I made that last paragraph up. Instead I did a quick u-turn from one stall to the next, and before long life was fine again.

After my escape, I put a sign on the stall door, warning away others from my terrible fate. Don’t you see, it would be the end of civilization were I not to.

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Space Ballpoints!

Fisher Space Bullet PenThe Fisher Space Pen: it writes in Zero gravity, upside down, underwater, through oil. US Astronauts used one on the Apollo-Soyuz mission. Despite the packaging, I don’t think any ever traveled to the moon. They were made after that had already ended. Maybe they should be called Orbital Pens.

They are cool.

My little sister gave me a bullet space pen several years ago. I use it almost every day. I can’t believe that I haven’t lost it! (The pen, silly.) It’s a short little thing till you take the cap off and slide it over the back end. Then it’s full-sized. It fits in smaller pockets. It’s very convenient.

That story about Soviet Cosmonauts using pencils, but the US having to invent a new type of pen, I think that’s apocryphal. Fisher doesn’t seem to have that much “in” with the government. But it’s a nice story.

They’ve also got normal length pens, with clickety buttons on the top, and Cap-O-Matics (the tip retracts as you turn the cap). They even have some pens that are made out of bullet casings. But they’re not bullet pens! Most of these things cost about $20. Which seems sort of expensive for a pen, but…

I had to email the Fisher folks yesterday. My favorite munchkin greets me every day by taking the bullet space pen out of my vest pocket. Then he takes the cap off. Then he puts the cap back on. Then he takes the cap off…. You get the idea. Over the course of several months, he wore out the little rubber o-ring that seals the cap in place. The cap is loose now, and sometimes falls off when I try to take the pen out of my pocket. The pen falls back into my pocket, my hand holding only the empty cap. Then I have to dig. Very frustrating.

The Fisher folk emailed back really quickly that they’d send me a free o-ring. And if that didn’t fix it, then I’d need to send the pen back. They would fix it, or replace it.
So for twenty bucks, it’s a permanent pen. As long as you don’t lose it. Which I haven’t yet.

I’m happy with the pen. I’m happy with the company. Their website is a little busy, but that’s OK by me.

Makes a great birthday gift, too! Perfect for you astronaut-wanna-be brother, or any other fisher of pens.

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I’ve Never Met an Ugly Horse, Part II

red desertThe Black Stallion Returns is a completely different movie from the first one. Instead of taking place on a desert island, or a New York farm, it takes place in the desert, far outside of Casablanca. Instead of being about a boy and his horse, it’s about a boy trying to get back with his horse. And then some.

(Hmmmm. It’s time to see Casablanca again. And maybe the Marx Brothers’ A Night in Casablanca just for fun, too!)

But it’s the same kid, and mostly the same horse. And life goes on, eh?

Once again, there’s the requisite horse race. Since it wasn’t on a sandy race track, but rather in the rocky desert, I wasn’t as worried about the horse breaking a leg. Go figure.

It’s a good movie, and if you’ve seen the first one then you are forced to see this one too. You might be a little disappointed, but there will be no permanent damage.

One IMDB review says that it shows Arabs and Muslims as people, not just as Terrorists. Well, maybe. There’s still a lot of stereotyping going on.

Twenty or more years ago I had a professor from Lubbock who pointed out that all the Arabs in American movies are bad guys. I mentioned Sallah, from Raiders of the Lost Ark. He wasn’t familiar with the movie but added, “Then he must be there for comic effect.”
It’s not just that the bad guys in this movie are buffoons. The “honorable” folks are a little too easily manipulated as well.

The guy who played Monk is Iranian. Monk is not a stereotypical character. Neither is the engineering guy from Galaxy Quest. Maybe if you dressed those characters in robes and placed them at an oasis, then I’d say they were oafish and stereotypical. But I don’t think so.

Anyway, it’s a movie well worth watching. There’s one brief curse phrase. Which really surprised me. And I even wondered, why didn’t he say that in Arabic? It might have been even more effective.

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I’ve Never Met An Ugly Horse

old farm, dead tractorI love horse snouts. They make me smile. You got the big nostrils. The lips with patchy whiskers. Warm and squishy, but also firm and dexterous. They make the horse look older, maybe wiser too.

In The Black Stallion, the horse has such a tiny nose!

It’s a pretty movie. Great photography. There is all sorts of music. Each actor brings a great performance. Hoyt Axton seems so innocent talking to his son….

Some people are surprised that it didn’t win some Oscars. But it couldn’t win Best Picture because like 1/3 of the movie has no dialog. Best Picture went to Kramer vs. Kramer that year. Lots dialogue in that one.

I remember when this came out; I thought Mickey Rooney was old then. He’s still alive. He’s been in movies for each of 10 decades.

It’s based on a book. The original author wrote like 20 in the series, from 1941 to 1983, so that’s only one every two years. It’s not to be confused with Black Beauty, but I’m sure there was some kind of influence peddling going on there.

It’s a gentle movie, despite all the blood and death. But it reminds me of why I hate the suspense of horse races. Remember Eight Belles? So many others. Or they get hung up in the gate and tear themselves to pieces, have to be put down. I worry so much at horse races.

Anyway, it’s a swell movie. On a really big screen it’s so pretty that you might not even feel like it’s a little too gentle. You might not think it’s a bit slow by today’s standards. There’s a lot going on there, but you have to be able to see it all.

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Occupy Tomatoes

Empty Bag-0-TomatoesMy wife’s mom makes a garden every year. Though she lives over 500 miles away, we still accumulate more butternut squash than you can shake a salt shaker at. And turnips turn up on our doorstep quite frequently. Mmmmmmm, so sweet and crunchy…

This year we received a big paper bag of green tomatoes. “Just keep them in the bag until they turn red,” she said. So we did. And boy did they!

The tomatoes that you buy in the store were harvested when they were green and hard. Even the “vine-ripened” ones that still have twigs attached. This is one of the reasons that store-bought tomatoes have no flavor. That, and they were bred to travel well, without bruising. So not only were they not bred to taste good, but they were harvested in such a way as too minimize their flavor and nutritional value.

Some people call that progress. Commerce never fails.

I wasn’t expecting much from theses home-grown tomatoes. After all, we got them when they were hard and green. They had too much in common with the store-bought ones. It didn’t seem promising.

But apparently either they were picked when they were less-hard and less-green than the store-bought ones, or they were bred to favor flavor. They were yummilicious!!! My wife doesn’t eat tomatoes, but she’s been gobbling up these.

You can grow your own in a 5 gallon bucket. Amazon has “Easy” tomato-growing apparati at decent prices. There’s no excuse to buy the man’s tomatoes.

You don’t have to settle for rip-off tomatoes. You can eat the 1% of tomatoes that actually taste good. Just do it yourself, grow your own.

Don’t let the system crush your beautiful tomato potential, man.

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Shrinky Dinks and Me

Sometimes a cigar is just a... omigod what is that thing?There’s a lot going on in Shrink. You definitely get your money’s worth. There’s more acting and characters and plots and stuff in these two hours than you usually get in 3 movies.

It sort of makes Hollywood feel like a small town kinda place. You bump into your friends everywhere you go, even if you don’t yet know that they’re your friends.

Before the movie starts, two suicides have already happened. During the movie there is another completed one, and a failed one or two. These later ones are mistakes or accidents. Which leads me to wonder if that’s what we’re supposed to believe of the earlier ones as well. In some way, you can say that all suicides are a mistake, but you’re ignoring the perpetrator’s point of view when you do so. It’s like they’re already not there.

I don’t remember what science fiction universe it came from… But there was some race of aliens, and the entire species committed suicide all at once. And none of the remaining intelligent life in the universe knew why. And they weren’t trying too hard to find out, either…

If it didn’t cause such existential problems, would suicide be such a taboo? It turns out, all over the world, among different cultures and races and religions, the suicide rate stays pretty much the same no matter where you go.

Anyway, this is a low key film, in some ways a comedy, making fun of Hollywood culture. I think that I even laughed once.

I didn’t recognize the insignia of the automobiles. It was a check mark, like in grocery stores where they let you pay by check, and they check your check to make sure it’s safe. Check one. Check two. Check three. Check check check.

I was disappointed at one point when they talk about not needing to use protection because she was already pregnant. What about diseases?! Sometimes I wonder about these Hollywood types. They set bad examples. Maybe that’s part of what this movie is about.

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I Hate Depression

no one gets out aliveSo some new MRI study says that depressive folks feel hate differently than other folks. And then somehow they end up saying that depressive folks feel more hate for themselves than other folks do.

As I’ve gotten older, I have found that my patience has grown in all things except for stupid people. They really frustrate me and make me angry. So maybe I do hate them. So does that mean that normal people don’t hate stupid people?

I don’t tend to think of myself as hating myself either. I’m one of the best folks that I know. I’m definitely not the best person that I’ve ever met, but I’m so ‘way far above most folks that it’s just embarrassing.

On the other hand, I do tend to be pretty hyper-critical. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good a job that you do, there’s always something that could be a little better about it. I see that this is definitely true for me. And I believe it true of most other folks. And it’s really especially true of stupid people.

So I really don’t think that the proper term here is “hate”. I suggest that they’re instead measuring criticality. It’s not self-loathing, it’s self-criticism. It’s not hating others, it’s nitpicking them.

So the reason depressive folks feel hate differently is because it’s not hate they’re feeling. There’s a critical difference. Don’t be stupid! You people give me a fatal case of disappointment.

Honestly, my overwhelming feeling in depression is that of being defeated. Been there, done that, and I even sell the t-shirt.


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Spooner is as Spooner Does

spoons and forks in a drawerI think that they really blew an important opportunity when they made the theatrical Scooby-Doo movies. If they hadn’t broken all the Scoobe rules, it could have been great. Because Matthew Lillard was spot-on-perfect as Shaggy.

So there’s a bunch of other Lillard work in my queue, but I’ve never watched it. None of it.  No sirree Bob.

Spooner is about a slacker. Is Lillard typecast? I don’t know. Maybe he should be. He does such a wonderful job.

It’s a pleasant movie. Not a lot happens in it. It’s a little episodic in places. It’s fairly gentle, except for the boss’ language.

Lillard is touching.

It’s funny.

I wish I had a fort with a corrugated roof.

Why would his mom ever set him up with Linda?

Lillard was spot-on perfect as Spooner. And it’s not an easy role.  It’s got this Chaplinesque quality… Especially the closeups.

Except for the boss and the donut, you’ll thank me for this.

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